When the Construction Workplace Causes You Hearing Loss
Showing up for work each day to a construction site can lead to several injuries. However, hearing loss is not a risk most people think of right away. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 51% of construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace, such as that made by heavy equipment and loud machinery, which can lead to substantial hearing loss. Hearing loss among construction workers is exceptionally high, at 14%.
Hearing loss becomes gradually noticeable over time. It can significantly decrease your quality of life and put you at higher risk for other potential injuries in the workplace. As part of your occupation, you are always surrounded by approaching vehicles, warning signals, and other measures put in place to increase your safety. If you can’t hear these, what good are they to you? In such instances, you may just be another accident waiting to happen, with even more devastating and possibly life-threatening injuries.
The importance of construction workplace safety in all forms cannot be overstated. Noise control methods are imperative in every construction site to help prevent workers from developing hearing loss and, in turn, avoid other types of injuries. You, too, can take extra measures to protect yourself, including staying alert and wearing protective headgear.
Hearing Loss Signs and Symptoms
Since hearing loss can occur gradually, you may not be sure you are suffering from its effects on your hearing health at any given time. Consider the following signs and symptoms from noise exposures, which can alert you to more severe issues to come.
- There’s a consistent buzzing or ringing in your ears (which could be tinnitus)
- You are unable to understand co-workers and have to move closer to hear what they are saying
- You find yourself having to shout at co-workers even if they are standing next to you
- You experience sudden, yet temporary, hearing loss
The recommended exposure limit for occupational noise is 85 dBA over the course of an 8-hour workday. Yet, many construction sites have consistently higher noise levels, which can cause hearing damage.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that if you have to shout to be heard by a co-worker at an arm’s length away, or your ears ring and hum when you leave the worksite, you may be exposed to hazardous noise levels.
Occupational hearing loss closely related to dangerously loud noise levels in your work environment can be devastating, or at the very least, extremely troubling. You must regularly obtain a hearing test, so you know whether noise hazards at construction sites damage your overall hearing ability. This damage can be temporary or lead to permanent damage in the form of total hearing loss.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is most often prevented by wearing ear protection or hearing protective headsets or other such devices as earmuffs or earplugs. These devices need to be provided by your employer and worn by you continuously while exposed to occupational noise. However, it does take a delicate balance to know when it is necessary and safe to remove the protective devices, such as when carrying on an important conversation or assuring you hear specific warning signals.
This noise-induced hearing loss usually takes time to develop fully. This can be months or even over several years. Often, you begin to hear a ringing sound, which is referred to as tinnitus. Eventually, you may not be able to fully understand your co-workers as your hearing degrades even further. The longer your exposure to high-level noise, the more likely you may suffer from some level of hearing loss.
While you can take safety measures to protect yourself and your hearing, you most likely do not have a way to control the construction workplace’s actual sound levels. So, what happens if hearing loss becomes a reality for you? What do you do next?
Compensation for Your Hearing Loss
In recent years, employer-paid worker’s compensation for hearing loss has increased, particularly in the construction industry. Workers’ compensation generally refers to a set of laws specifically designed to protect workers like you who sustain injuries of some type in the workplace, including hearing loss. This ensures you receive needed medical care, rehabilitation, medical devices such as hearing aids, and recovering lost wages.
In general, workers’ compensation covers hearing loss, as long as it can be proven to have occurred while on the job, completing the tasks involved and required. Promptly filing a claim with your employer is where a designated workplace accident lawyer can be beneficial, and also assist with any potential litigation that may follow in some instances.
If, after filing the claim, your employer is hesitating or not providing the help and guidance you need and deserve, it’s time to take additional steps. Your workplace accident lawyer knows precisely what these next steps are and can help move your case forward.
As hearing is imperative to your occupation in the construction industry, you may also need to receive short-term or long-term disability payments. If your employer provides these benefits, seek these out as soon as possible, especially if your employer does not automatically notify you of these benefits right away.
If you find that your hearing loss is permanent and restricting your quality of life, it may be time to consider filing for benefits under the Social Security Disability Act. Severe hearing loss is defined as a qualified disability under the Act; however, you must meet stringent eligibility requirements to receive benefits.
Working with a dedicated workplace accident lawyer specialized in this area can help you determine if you meet those strict requirements, and if so, how to move through the process with success.
Seek Legal Help for Hearing Loss Benefits
If you believe you are beginning to suffer hearing loss due to a construction workplace, our team of personal injury attorneys here at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., can help. We have several years of experienced workplace accident lawyer representing those with workplace injuries just like you and can help you properly file your worker’s compensation claim.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., can also help you determine if you are eligible for benefits under the Social Security Disability Act and, if so, represent you in your filing.
Give us a call today at (866) 642-4529 and schedule your no-obligation free consultation.